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New anti-gay bill threat in Tanzania

Violence and discrimination continue, but the government is unlikely to back a new anti-gay bill, says leading organization for men who have sex with men
LGBTI activist Maurice Mjomba was murdered in Tanzania in 2013.

Life in jail for homosexuality is not enough to protect Tanzania from gays, an MP has argued, as he drafts a new anti-LGBTI bill.

The law in Tanzania already gives 20 years to life for homosexual activity, with slightly lighter sentences in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar.

But Ezekiel Wenje from the main opposition party, Chama cha Democrasia na Maendeleo, claims homosexuality is on the rise because that law is not enough of a deterrent.

He wants Tanzania to follow in the footsteps of another East African country, Uganda, with its new Anti-Homosexuality Act.

In particular, he wants the law to punish people who ‘induce others’ to become gay or ‘promote’ it, reports the East African.

He told the publication: ‘The work to draft the bill has started. I am being supported by MPs from my party; I also have support from other parties including Chama Cha Mapinduzi [the ruling party with the most seats in the National Assembly].’

But a spokesman for Stay Awake Network Activities (SANA), a leading LGBTI organization in the country, told Gay Star News Wenje’s bill wouldn’t pass.

‘It will never happen. It is totally different to Uganda here.

‘Our government is quiet on this issue. They have no problem with us as long as we keep a low profile.’

Wenje has proposed the new anti-gay law at a time when Tanzania is considering a new constitution.

But the SANA spokesman said other politicians had said they should be prioritizing other issues.

He added: ‘Sometimes a few politicians will use us to get votes. But it is the media that is our biggest problem. They write negatively about us and promote stigmatization.’

That stigmatization leads people to reject LGBTI rights in the name of ‘god, culture and traditions,’ he argued.

And he said: ‘We have many problems. Sometimes we face violence from the community, like beatings. Sometimes when we walk on the street people start shouting at us. In 2013 one of our members [Maurice Mjomba, pictured above] was killed.

‘And there are many, many problems like access to health and sexual health.’

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